Writing Off the Page (Feature Post)

By Manuel Gonzales

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It’s been since June of 2010 that I’ve had a long stretch of time to sit down and write for myself. I moved to Austin with my family in July, and then set to work painting and unpacking and setting up the house, and then in August took a new job that required more time and energy and brain power than I’d expended for a job in a long time. Then, in October, my wife gave birth to our second child, and since then our schedules have been turned inside out and upside down. So it was only last week — the first week of February — that I was able, for the first time in over six months, to sit down and work on a project, devote myself to it.

I did so for thirty minutes.

Then realized it was nearly 1 a.m., and that my son would be waking us up in an hour, and that I needed to go to sleep post haste.

Nearly a week later — today, Monday February 7th — I took another hour, hour and a half. I took this time in the middle of the day — sneakily, guiltily — setting aside work and the house cleaning that needed to be done, setting aside bills that needed to be paid and phone numbers that needed calling, and sat down in a place where no one knew me, and wrote some more.

Forty-five minutes later, I remembered a call I had to make — just had to make because of a deadline — and that ate up thirty minutes of the precious time I’d set aside. Then, fifteen minute after that, I had to leave so I could pick up my daughter at school.

But I’m not writing all of this to bemoan the fact that these days I have no serious chunks of time to write. I’m writing all of this because of what happened as I was driving to get my daughter.

What happened was this: I kept writing.

Not literally. Not physically. But as I drove, the scene I had been writing continued to play out in my head. A new character was introduced. Dialogue was spoken. Narrative pushed inexorably forward.

I had forgotten about this particular phenomenon, and maybe it doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does remind me of why it is so important for a writer to establish a routine of writing. So important to write even a little every day. By writing a little every day, day after day, by establishing some kind of routine, you plant yourself more firmly into the story you’re writing so that even when you’re not actively writing, the story is still being written.

Manuel Gonzales is a writer living in Austin. He has published stories in Open City Magazine, Fence Magazine, One Story, Esquire, and McSweeney’s Quarterly Review. For the past six years, he has taught creative writing courses online for the Gotham Writer’s Workshop. He is currently the executive director of the Austin Bat Cave, a nonprofit creative writing center for students aged 6 to 18. He has written stories featuring zombies, unicorns, and more zombies.

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